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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
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The Impulse Multiprocessing system

Developer:
IAT Manufacturing/Alternate Approach
Announced: November 1998

During November 1998 IAT Manufacturing and Alternate Approach announced the development of a range of Amigas that would use the Coldfire processor. Although it is still quite early in development it already showing promise as a way of continuing the Classic Amiga line into the next century and could form the basis of range of cheap Amiga-compatible systems. This is not the first time the Amiga has been linked with the Coldfire line; during 1995/96 it was one of the choices for the Amiga Walker project.

The Coldfire series was created by Motorola as a low-cost RISC descendant of the 68k platform. It reduces the cost of the chip by switching to an RISC design and stripping the 68k of only the most essential instructions, this makes it roughly 40% opcode compatible with 68k processors resulting in many applications not being able to run. This could be solved in a similar way that support was added to the 68060 processor by creating a set of libraries that handle the missing instructions through software rather than hardware. This would result in many applications running much slower as the opcodes would have to be emulated in software and a greater load would be put on the processor. However, considering the speed increase of the Coldfire (up to 600MIPS) it will not matter and in some circumstances would allow the application to run even faster. The only problem would be with games and a few old applications that access the hardware directly.

IAT Manufacturing (hardware) and Alternate Approach (software) are currently developing the Impulse Multiprocessing system in a joint venture. To take advantage of the multi-processing capabilities a custom Micro-OS is being developed to integrate it into the AmigaOS, which is not able to do it as standard. Unlike current approaches to adding a PowerPC to the Amiga the Coldfire will be autonomous utilising the MCF5307 processor and using multiple buses (called IMultibus technology). The system will be entirely modular allowing the production of a wide range of Amiga-based devices that can be upgraded only when necessary.

The first phase will result in the release of Coldfire systems working in conjunction with the 68k processor sometime during early 1999. This will involve the sale of complete systems and upgrades for current A1200 and A4000's through the release of Coldfire accelerator boards. If these units are successful they will move onto phase 2 that will use Coldfire processors capable of 600MIPS and removing the need for 68k altogether.

In a press release IAT manufacturing stated that the planned system would consist of:

  • Two MCF5307 processors (70 MIPS each) + 1 68k processor.
  • Two Fully functional FPU's (Floating Point Units).
  • 8 Megabit SRAM (12ns access time).
  • Three RS232 serial ports.
  • M-bus Support (I2C compatible)
  • Custom "IBus Expansion with access to programmable chip selects & DMA controller.
  • DRAM controllers
They hope that third party developers will take advantage of the IBus to produce a range of peripherals and add-ons.

Read the preliminary press release
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Last Update: 1/11/2001
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